Monday, July 30, 2012

At Journey's End


They were the fifth, and quite possibly the last, generation that would call The Great Ship home. Every possible scenario to extend their journey had been thoroughly researched and subsequently discarded as unworkable. The simple truth was the great behemoth simply had no more to give.

Equipped and outfitted for a voyage expected to last no longer than one year of ship’s time, she was now halfway through her 237th year of travel and unlikely to see another.

Scarce three months into their trek, she was seized in a solar storm of unparalleled intensity and flung willy-nilly through an uncharted quantum singularity. She emerged into an area of space that neither her databases nor her crew had any knowledge of.

Nearly all The Great Ship’s systems had suffered damage of some sort. The most telling were to the primary and secondary propulsion systems, astrogation systems and planetary sensors. In essence, the ship was a great bird with a badly-broken wing that’d lost its sense of direction and was unsure where it might be safe to land.

The final indignity was that this space appeared reasonably devoid of potentially-habitable planets. With little choice, they resolved to make the best of fate and so began their search.

Of the legion of lives lost along the way and the myriad of worlds deemed unsuitable, little more need be said. The explorers continued onward despite all obstacles, always believing that “home” would be the next world they encountered.

Colonists aged, babies were born and their numbers remained constant if a bit diluted. Every passing year more secondary systems were cannibalized to prop up their sagging primary counterparts until no more secondary systems remained.

Environmental controls faltered and the end of the voyage could be precisely calculated. A date and time were computed beyond which The Great Ship would live no more.

Morale onboard was at an epic low point and some had even begun to discuss whether euthanasia was a viable means to extend their trip. In this, their darkest hour, they glimpsed the first feeble light of dawn in their latest scans.

There remained one planet within range that could prove their salvation. Nothing hazardous was detected by the limited sensor data and a decision was made. They must, at long last, make landfall and call their exodus done. And so they did.

The planet proved wondrous beyond their wildest expectations. The climate was almost perfectly agreeable with projected long growing seasons and relatively mild winters to be expected. Air, soil and water quality were exemplary. This was, at long last, home.

They bedded down that night for the first time under planetary gravity, breathing air not endlessly recirculated and lulled by the sounds of actual terrestrial fauna.

Sadly, they had no way to know the joy and relief swelling their hearts was echoed by the swelling of gravitational abnormalities within the core of their new planet’s sun. The end of the world was mere days away for those who’d travelled so long. 

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